Tom Jones has nothing to do with the famous Welsh singer. Though the 1963 film did inspire his stage name, Tom Jones is actually a jolly good romp that won Best Picture. It’s not unusual for a comedy to win big at the Academy Awards, but Tom Jones is vastly different than something like Lawrence of Arabia. The only similarity is that they’re both British productions. Unlike Lawrence of Arabia, Tom Jones is a brisk 2 hours with looser camera work and plenty of women to go around. It’s based on the somewhat edgy 1749 novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. Tom Jones is a bastard found by a squire and raised as a gentleman who grows into a frequent womanizer. Tom Jones won Best Adapted Screenplay for making the source material suitable for general audiences. Though sexual and provocative in nature, the movie jokingly makes a point of not showing anything.
Tom Jones has subtle, often silly British humor that includes a silent film style opening, out of nowhere fourth wall breaks, sped up chase scenes, comedic freeze frames, and wacky transitions. All accompanied by delightful Best Music Score winning piano music. It’s an acquired taste to be sure. Tony Richardson won Best Director, but even he wasn’t satisfied with the final product. Though nobody won, 5 cast members were nominated including an unprecedented 3 nominations for Best Supporting Actress. The Oscar nominated Albert Finney became a breakout star who balances Tom’s kind nature and out of control labido. George Devine plays the kindly Squire Allenby who raises him, but it’s Hugh Griffith as the bumbling Squire Western who earned a nomination. Tom spends time with many women, but it’s the lovely Susannah York as the Squire’s daughter Sophie who earns his love.
She’s a lady who participates in deer hunts and doesn’t put up with Tom’s womanizing. Edith Evans was nominated for playing Sophie’s no-nonsense aunt Miss Western. Diane Cilento was also nominated for playing the loose Molly Seagrim who seduces Tom. She’s a sexbomb who makes Tom unfit to wed Western’s daughter. David Warner plays the villainous Blifil, cousin of Tom, and son of his deceased Aunt Bridget. When Tom is banished, he ends up in sword fights and seduced by more women in an attempt to return to Sophie. Joan Greenwood stands out as the much older amoral noblewoman Lady Bellaston, but it’s Joyce Redman as the rescued Mrs. Waters who earned the third nomination. A final revelation about Tom’s mother hints at potential incest (what’s new pussycat?), but it’s all a hilarious misunderstanding. Though Lilies of the Field should’ve won, Tom Jones is a comedy of errors that elevates the overlooked genre.